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Polygence Scholar2023
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Jacob Kwon

Class of 2024



  • "The Symposium in Antiquity" with mentor Anthony (Aug. 30, 2023)

Jacob's Symposium Presentation

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The Symposium in Antiquity

Started May 17, 2023

Abstract or project description

Alcohol has been a dichotomy of vice and pleasure for centuries. A social lubricant which elevates sensory experiences while serving as a culinary pairing is also addictive, unhealthy, and impairing. The duality of alcohol has inevitably led to an inherently complex relationship with humankind, something that can be traced back to the looser times of a distant past, specifically in the glorified Greco-Roman times, where drinking was a free flowing, social activity, much like and much different from today.

For the Greeks, drinking was culturally fueled by Dionysos, the god of wine and theater. Believed to have created wine himself, Greeks celebrated him through festivals, dance, song, theater, a cult, and by drinking. Being an important Hellenic social institution, symposium culture developed in response. The greek symposium was a social, male, aristocratic activity, where men gathered together and enjoyed a convivial atmosphere marked by one uniting feature: the consumption of wine. Similar to the ways in which modern humans drink together, we hear about symposium culture from texts like Plato’s symposium and Xenophon’s symposium, as well as from artifacts and art found by archaeologists. Uniquely, symposia were not limited to just social gatherings, as they were often a place of ostentatious display of wealth for the aristocracy. Through the vessels provided, ornamented interior displays, and elaborate performances from performers, symposiarchs had many opportunities to enhance the opportunities of guests.